Morgen und Abend, Royal Opera House, review: Brilliant cast delivers an operatic experience like no other

Georg Friedrich Haas¹s new opera is a meditation on life as seen from beyond the grave

Helena Rasker as Erna and Christoph Pohl as Johannes
Helena Rasker as Erna and Christoph Pohl as Johannes

As we saw in his settings of Sappho at the Linbury earlier this year, Georg Friedrich Haas¹s music speaks to the heart not the head, and his new opera Morgen und Abend needs none of the fist-to-forehead philosophisings which fill the programme: it¹s a meditation on life as seen from beyond the grave, and it follows the free-associative rhythm of a dream. Richard Hudson¹s designs for Graham Vick¹s production suggest a conceptual-art installation, as a chair, a wardrobe, a door, a bed, and a rowing boat circle the stage at a glacial pace; everything ­ including the characters ­ is covered in dusty grey light.

Punctuated at the start by deafening percussion, the music dispenses its own kind of greyness, with a heavily muted orchestra and muffled offstage choir creating unisons and glissandi at an equally glacial pace, yet this gradually becomes pleasing to the ear. Vick¹s one (massive) directorial mistake is to deny the Austrian actor Klaus Maria Brandauer the necessary support of surtitles in a thirty-minute monologue in Becketian style: since much of that is inaudible over the music, the results are seriously alienating. But when the brilliant cast led by baritone Christoph Pohl breaks into song under Michael Boder¹s direction the dream acquires compelling momentum. The signs are that tickets aren¹t selling well: anyone wanting an operatic experience like no other should seize this chance.

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